This article studies the layered coexistence and mutual shaping of three forms of differentiation (functional, segmentary, hierarchical) in rural Uzbekistan, a region of world society that, since 1991, is undergoing tremendous processes of socio-economic transformation and change. More precisely, we analyse the evolving governance of land, water and agricultural support services (knowledge & advice) in the Uzbek province of Khorezm, where currently three types of farms utilise various social practices to navigate a complex and partly opaque environment marked by various forms of differentiation, each posing different opportunities, threats and coordination mechanisms (institutions). In doing so, the article builds on Rudolf Stichweh’s considerations of world society’s structural patterns, its ‘Eigenstructures’ as well as Niklas Luhmann’s conceptualisation of world society’s autopoietically closed function systems. Based on ethnographic research, we argue that the mobilisation of patron-client relationships, a complex system of coercive reciprocity and a trilogy of formal, strategic and discursive practices are widely employed to cope with the coexistence of an undermined layer of functional differentiation and reaffirmed/reinvented segmentary and hierarchical identities. We argue that the skilful navigation by local actors between these different differentiation forms and their demands, embodies a short-term adaptation strategy that is likely to hamper a (re-)crystallisation of autonomous functional domains. Hampering functional differentiation jeopardises long-term change adaptation.